As a Black woman in social media I too have noticed the lack of women and people of color in conferences, panels, and top 50 lists. This is something I’ve referred to when I attended the WAM Conference in March. I recently moderated a panel at Campus Progress about how Social Media is changing the way we break news, but it was then I began to reflect again on how rare it is that you have a woman of color moderating a panel of that nature, let alone participating on one. My colleague and fellow GW Alum James Walker talks about diversity in social media and communications — or lack thereof–in this piece originally posted at his blog, Gen Y PR Prescriptions.
If I had to assign the last week one overarching theme, there’s no question that it would be diversity.
It started with Sunday afternoon thoughts about one social media heavyweight who just does not seem to get the credit she deserves, Corvida Raven. I could try to describe her, but I think she does a better job in her twitter profile:
- – Oprah of the web
- – @MrTweet blog editor
- – New Media Specialist
- – Awesomesauce
She was on USTREAM not too long ago talking about issues she had with the social media tweetups and other events being held in the Atlanta area. Her main concern seemed to be that the events were all being held in places convenient to a certain circle of people. This normally meant that events were held in a section of Atlanta that was:
- Close to that circle of people (work and/or home)
- In places (bars/restaurants/meeting spaces) that they and their group frequented
- Not *reasonably metro accessible (long travel time or just inaccessible by normal standards)
She noted that she makes an effort to go whenever possible but can’t always go mainly because of number 3. One thing that is apparent when she does go is that she sees the same faces all the time. My guess is that those are faces unlike hers. There are several questions that come to mind, but they are tied to my next “diversity week” event, Women Who Tech.
Every month, DC Tech Titan Jill Foster holds great sessions at NPR as a part of her DC Media Makers series. The July meetup included a presentation from fellow Tech Titan Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech. Without mincing words, women are underrepresented in the tech industry and often are nowhere to be found when you look at speaker panels at major conferences. Women Who Tech was created to “to break down the barriers and showcase the brilliant talents of women who tech out” and also to “create a database of women technology experts to be used as a resource for the media and tech conference organizers.”
I agreed with everything that Allyson had to say until she said that she’s begun to boycott sessions that aren’t representative of women in the industry in terms of panels and attendance. I didn’t agree with that because I thought that she was contributing to the problem by not participating, but event attendee D.C. Hughes hit her with one better. He said, “I look around and see five black males [in a room of about 40]. If I were to apply that here, I’d boycott this event.”
I couldn’t help but laugh because of the way he said it, but he was right. The entire time I sat there listening to Allyson’s issues and the steps she was taking to address them, I was wondering if there was a way to transfer that and if someone should take up the charge to work towards equal (or at least more equal) representation for people of color in the Tech, PR and Social Media sectors. The clear answer is yes.
However, addressing the diversity issue will not be as easy and clear cut as the picture I included above. There are several questions that will need to be answered in order to get to the roots of the *problems* helping diversity remain an issue.
Now that I’ve had my say, I’d like to do my part, but I can only do that with your help.
Here’s what I need from you.
- If you’re even remotely interested in this issue, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you’re not interested but think this might be of value, please tweet this, forward the link out to your networks, send smoke signals, messenger pigeons…you get the idea!
- If you know people I should be reaching out to, feel free to email or include their info in a comment below.